Sense8: You Want a War?

Here comes a van to hit you with one
million cliffhangers
“Sometimes it’s terrifying. And sometimes it’s incredibly exciting. It’s been maddening, enlightening, confusing and always unpredictable.”

This season finale can be split into two parts. The first one is the big showdown between Sun and her brother. The second part is itself divided into two sections: the calm before the storm scenes, which feature nice character moments, and the actual storm, consisting of a fifteen-minute ride of pure oh-my-god, oh-no, what-just-happened, wow-twist, holy-hell-what-is-going-on, that-cliffhanger-damn-you-writers. Let’s dive into it, shall we?

Bak vs. Bak

Let me start with what didn’t work for me: I hated, hated, that Joong-Ki remained alive and free. Are you kidding me? Talk about a storyline that needed some closure and didn’t get one. I just don’t see any reason to push it into a third season (if they had gotten one). I mean, this is a story that has been stale ever since Sun left prison and when you think something is finally going to happen, nope, Joong-Ki gets away with all the mess he has caused. See you in season three the finale special, dear viewers, after nothing happened in season two besides Sun escaping jail.

The other problem I had was with the setup. Why would Joong-Ki shoot Mun? That’s not how millionaires solve their problems. They have big ass lawyers and politicians to help them. Joong-Ki only went crazy because the writers needed to kickstart the action somehow. This is a problem that could’ve been fixed if something had happened before, if we had learned that Joong-Ki was deeply troubled to the point of taking such drastic measures. But we know him very little, we barely saw him this season, so his actions come off as forced rather than natural.

Listen, I get it. Sense8 is a show very focused on its protagonists and their character development. Like I mentioned in my review of the previous episode, this season’s theme is the search for identity, so Sun’s arc naturally revolved around that. Still, there has to be enough plot to drive the story and, unfortunately, there simply wasn’t. This is the same problem that hit Capheus’ arc: the emotional aspect of the story was well done, but the plot was underdeveloped.

So now I move onto that emotional aspect that Sense8 does well, because it really worked for me. Sun is not a killer. Okay, she manslaughtered a bunch of gangsters with Capheus last season, but you get my point. Being a killer is not in her heart. Ever since Min-Jung told Sun she had a heart of a baby bird, Sun’s final choice was telegraphed: she wouldn’t kill her brother. There is even a flashback montage, as Sun’s slowly walks towards her brother, to showcase everything that motivates her, whether it’s to kill or to spare him. It’s an effective sequence, and I’ve come to appreciate Sense8’s willingness to spell things out, unafraid of being perceived as blatant. It’s part of the show’s storytelling and, because each frame is so gorgeously shot, the final result is powerful rather than annoying.


The action sequence leading up to that moment is very cool too. From Sun taking down the security personnel, to Kala being freaking badass and thinking ahead of all the action leads of the team, to that awesome car chase. Wow, what an awesome car chase. And it was so satisfying to see Joong-Ki as nervous as he was. “My sister is the fucking terminator” is one of the best lines of the series. Her final badass move, by the hands of Wolfgang, was the perfect conclusion to the chase. Now if only Joong-Ki had been locked up...

Will the finale special conclude this story? I hope so. Sun better rescue Mun from that hospital before her brother gets him killed, and I want to see Joong-Ki behind bars. It’s way overdue.

An interlude between the climaxes

After the non-resolution of Sun’s story, the episode becomes that type of finale that is calm and uneventful until all hell breaks loose.

First, Nomi and Amanita recap some of the events of the last few episodes, which prompts Nomi to check again with Amanita if she is okay with being part of all the sensate madness. Amanita has a clarity to what she wants in life – be with Nomi – and I love the way this season has strengthened their relationship. I thought Amanita would show signs of tiredness, but she has remained in control of her feelings and thoughts, even in the face of danger. The lady is a rock. Freema Agyeman does a lovely job conveying all the different emotions Amanita feels leading up to her asking Nomi to marry her. A perfect Sense8 moment becomes even more beautiful – and even more Sense8 – when Nomi reveals that she too intended to propose. So, the two lovers make a double propose, to which they both say “yes”, obviously. It’s the perfect conclusion to their arc this season, and I wish Sense8 would continue past the two-hour special so that we had more of Nomi and Amanita’s positive relationship.


The next three scenes are more about setup. Capheus is visited by four sensates that connected with him during his speech. They think he is crazy for having exposed himself like that – hey, guys, he is part of the August 8 cluster, they get that a lot. It’s a short scene, probably meant to set up Capheus’ story for the cancelled third season. Then there is Kala, about to tell Rajan the truth. This is another storyline that demanded a more definite resolution, but instead Rajan tells his truth to her – he is cooperating in a corruption investigation – and says she needs to travel away for her own safety. And that’s it, just like that, Kala is still tied to Rajan. Finally, Sun and Riley try to take some information out of Puck, but they are cut short when a previously unseen sensate tells Puck to stay away from them. The reason? The cannibal is hunting and everybody knows by now which cluster is his favorite. Whom he is hunting specifically we find out a few minutes later.


Before that, though, we have another very romantic Kala and Wolfgang scene. Because, of course, the writers will give us heaven before pulling the rug from under us and throwing us in hell. Kala and Wolfgang are so lovely packing their bags together and professing their love for one another. They are just so happy from (kind of) leaving everything behind to be together. Awn. But things don’t go their way, which leads us to the final section of the episode…

War

Well, hell yeah. I know many people disliked how rushed the final fifteen minutes were, but I enjoyed that finally there was some main story progression.

Mind me, I don’t have a problem with Sense8’s choice of telling the story at a slower pace, I’m talking about progression. For most of this season the BPO arc has been more about learning of the past rather than having things happen in the present. I can see how the different pieces all combine into this finale – Lila’s cluster becoming an enemy of Wolfgang’s, Whispers using the machine that is a result of all his research, Will putting in motion a plan he has been cooking for a while. But it doesn’t change the fact that the story was mostly stale for a large section of the season.

Now, why the writers designed the season to move at ten miles an hour and have the last fifteen minutes be one hundred miles a minute, I don’t know. I mean, I get that they wanted to pull out a stunt, which was awesome, but I wish the stunt was backed by a more solid development throughout the season. As it is, frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air. I’m telling you, I rewatched those last fifteen minutes several times already and they were extremely exciting every single time.

A lot happens. Wolfgang is taken by BPO. Whispers uses the Traceworks on him and learns about Kala’s identity. The entire cluster rushes to get to London. Will meets with Whispers, who is unaware Will is physically there. Our heroes kidnap both Whispers and Jonas, promising war against them. The entire cluster sans Wolfgang plus Amanita is together for the very first time. End of show. Bravo.

There is a specific moment that I’d like to highlight to make my point. It’s when Lito is bleeding and falls. Hernando comes to help him. What is wrong with his lover? He doesn’t know, he is so afraid. Daniela, call an ambulance, he screams. No, not an ambulance, Lito cries, that’s not what he needs. Hernando and Daniela, unaware, are suddenly into the sensate world. That creates momentum. Worlds have collided and Lito can’t just go on living without solving the BPO problem first. Neither can Capheus. Neither can Sun. They all have to leave their lives and put their problems on hold to go save Wolfgang and save themselves. Again, that’s momentum, something this season could have used more.

I love the vibrant colors of this shot
Of course, there is a lot we don’t see. Did Lito tell Hernando and Daniela the truth? How did they react? How did Shiro react to Capheus snapping right in front of her? Most importantly, the sensates met. Physically. How was it? Did they cry? Laugh? Hugged one another for a good few minutes? Was Amanita overwhelmed at seeing all the people that live in Nomi’s head?

It’s very not this show to skip all these things. Just earlier in the episode Sun took a four-minute slow-mo walk to decide what to do with her brother. The fact that the writers completely flipped their storytelling logic tells me that they did intend to fill in the blanks later. Now I hope they do it in the two hours they have left, and I’m grateful we even have these two hours to give the characters some much needed closure and resolution.

To war.

Bits and Pieces

- Amanita being with the cluster in the final scene solidifies her place as the ninth member, and it’s very earned.

- I didn’t understand how Will pulled that trick with Whispers.

- I also didn’t get why Will and the others would have all that trouble to kidnap Whispers but not rescue Wolfgang.

- I can’t stress enough how much I disliked that Joong-Ki was not arrested. He shot a detective and caused mayhem on the streets, but somehow Sun still took all the blame.

- Whispers’ work on BPO came down to creating the most effective sensate chaser ever, the Traceworks.

- I want Whispers defeated, but I don’t really get him as a villain. We still don’t know why he does what he does. Most of the time he comes across as the typical evil scientist. He even has a physical resemblance to Stranger Things’ evil scientist. And his line to Will: “I will enjoy feeling you experience her death”. Dude, why? What do you have to gain with all of this?

- It looks like Jonas has sided with BPO permanently. To hell with him, then.

- Puck dyed his hair to look like Riley’s. That was a good visual gag.

- I watched this episode twice and I can’t remember now if there was an explanation of how Puck ended up in South Korea to help Sun just in time.

- I liked that Rajan turned out to be innocent. It’s more aligned with what we’ve seen of him thus far.

- Nice sensate bit: everyone “holding” Sun before the van was hit.

- Another nice sensate bit: Capheus waking up happy right after Nomi and Amanita proposed.

- So, I found out Freema Agyeman is 38 years old. She looks like she is in her twenties.

- Another thing I learned – this one in the Doux Reviews writers room – is that the original order of Doona’s name is Bae Doo-na. In Korea, the family name comes first. Which means “Doona Bae” is the super western version of her name.

- I love the music score that plays during the action sequences.

Quotes

Joong-Ki: “My sister is the fucking Terminator.”

Amanita: “Big ass intersection coming up.”

Nomi: “Is this our new normal?”
Amanita: “I can think of worse normals.”

Amanita: “Choice is less about what happens than it is about how we deal with it.”

Amanita: “Abso-fucking-lutely.”

Will: “Over here, male narrative.”

Wolfgang: “Both of the men in your life are connected to criminals. What does that say about you?”
Kala: “I’m sure it speaks volumes about my poor choices, my own dishonesty, indecency, and general lack of good character.”

How do I rate this episode? There were superb scenes, I was completely hooked during the two big climaxes, I was touched by Amanita and Nomi’s engagement, but there was also some frustration and question marks. So, I won’t rate it. I’ll end this review thanking the TV gods that there is a special coming to give us closure, and thank you guys for reading these reviews, even when it took me longer to post them than it took Sun to walk that street.
--
Lamounier

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

What a terrific review, Lamounier, and I'm so with you. If they had left the story like this, it would have been infuriating. All those cliffhangers, just when they made me so happy by putting nearly all of them in the same physical place! I felt so incredibly cheated out of seeing them meet in person for the first time; they'd darned well better show that happening. I also absolutely hated that Whispers took Wolfgang. Can they put together a satisfying ending with so many loose threads? Maybe if they focus only on tying up the important ones.

I was actually thinking "She's the Terminator" when Sun's brother said it. :) And Will shocking Whispers by being real was very cool. I also loved that Amanita was so much a part of the cluster. Maybe they could end the series with the entire cluster at Nomi and Amanita's wedding?

Lamounier said...

Will shocking Whispers by being real was very cool.

Yes. I forgot to mention how cool that was. Seeing Whispers desperate was very satisfying. Like Joong-Ki, he is nothing without money and corporation to protect him and he knows it.

Can they put together a satisfying ending with so many loose threads?

Let's see. They have two hours left and this is what needs to be tied up [I got carried away and it ended up becoming a wish list of mine]:

1) BPO / Whispers / Jonas / Lila: this is the biggest loose end, obviously. The stories of Riley, Will, Nomi and Wolfgang are deeply tied to it at this point. Outside of the main arc, these four don't have any individual story demanding closure. Okay, there is Wolfgang and Kala meeting, but that's a given once they rescue Wolfgang.

2) Sun: hers is the second biggest loose end. Joong-Ki needs to be taken down and Sun needs to clear her name. A hint that Sun and Mun will begin a relationship would be nice. And Sun visiting Min-Jung in jail would be a perfect bookend.

3) Kala: there is no point dedicating time to the corruption investigation Rajan is collaborating with. The loose end here is their marriage. How Rajan and Kala's family will react, unfortunately, shouldn't be a priority, but I hope there is a sense that Rajan will be okay.

4) Capheus: Aside from the seeds the writers planted for next season, I'd say Capheus individual story is pretty much closed. They could show him get elected, but that's not mandatory.

5) Lito: His story is closed too. Hernando and Daniela won't have the screen time that Amanita had to understand the sensate world, though. Maybe a comedic resolution to that would work?

So... if I were writing the special, this is how much time I would dedicate to each remaining story:

1) BPO: one hour (including flashbacks to everyone meeting and coming up with the plan to kidnap Whispers).

2) Sun: 20 to 30 minutes.

3) Kala: 5 to 10 minutes.

4) Capheus: 5 minutes (or zero, to be included in section 6).

5) Lito: 5 minutes.

6) Final moments: 10 to 20 minutes. This would include Capheus being elected or with his loved ones, Lito shooting the movie or at the premiere, Will and Riley visiting his father's tombstone, Will back at being a cop... Emotional resolutions all around, everybody happy, that kind of stuff.

It could be a bit rushed, but I think it can be done. Fingers crossed.

Ending the series with Amanita and Nomi's wedding is a perfect idea, Billie. Now I want it to happen.

Billie Doux said...

Sounds good to me. When the finale comes out, maybe you should do a count and see how close you get. :)